Iron Fate – Crimson Messiah Review

2021 was a mightily backloaded year of metal. I didn’t love a lot of stuff from January through August and I was coasting along with a very low yearly rating average. Since August however, it seems every other album I dive into is a blast and it’s done major damage to that once pristine median. Now comes the classic metal stylings of Iron Fate to play mischief with Steel‘s ledger of maths. Existing since 2006, this Germanic tribe’s debut came out in 2010 and nothing further was heard until today’s chestnut, Crimson Messiah. I haven’t a clue what they were up to all those years, but whatever it was, they came back ready to rumble. This is a wild and wooly blend of 80s traditional metal, American power metal and NWoBHM, and when it works, get out of the way. You can expect to hear nods to the greats like Priest, Maiden, and Queensrÿche alongside other 80s acts like Agent Steel and Crimson Glory. Does that mean Crimson Messiah is a nostalgia rocket from the crypts of the past? Well…yeah. And what of it, chumbo?

Want a rowdy, Painkiller-esque opener to smash your balls to the wall? The title track provides it, led by the powerhouse vocals of one Denis “Iron Ivan” Brosowski the band rips through speedy riffs and classic metal harmonies as Iron Denis does his best impressions of Geoff Tate and Agent Steel’s John Cyriis. It’s aggressive, punchy, and catchy as hell. Better still is the full speed ahead fury of “Malleus Maleficatum” which is indeed a witch hammer of a metal tune sure to get you headbanging and fist pumping. Then things dial back for the uber 80s power ballad “We Rule the Night” which is so 1985 it stings, with a strong Scorpions vibe running through the poppy hair metal tapestry. A certain aloof coolness hangs in the air throughout as sweet guitar licks splash all over everything. A strong front half rounds out with the White Wizzard friendly gallop of “Crossing Shores” where Jag Panzer’s immortal Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin arrives to help blow the doors off during the chorus with torsion-tempting vocal acrobatics that would be at home on the last Riot City platter. Good, meaty stuff!

The second act is a bit of a curveball, led by the much more proggy “Mirage” which sounds like the off-kilter merger of Queensrÿche’s Rage for Order era and a somewhat conflicted Iron Maiden. It’s a bit awkward but ultimately works thanks to top-notch vocals and nifty guitar work. The album’s centerpiece is the mammoth, 10-minute “Strangers (In My Mind),” which is like Crimson Glory’s “Lost Reflection” mixed with Queensrÿche’s most hammy, overwrought moments. It’s so big, bombastic and dripping with cartoonishly overblown emotion that it holds your interest, and Denis delivers a bigtime performance, but it could easily be trimmed down to a leanER 6-7 minutes. The remainder of Crimson Messiah goes back to basics with ripping tuneage and some big moments (“Guardians of Steel”), but that weird 16-minute middle section does hurt the album’s momentum, and “Hellish Queen” is a step down in quality from the front half winners.

The main draw of Iron Fate is the wild vocals, and Denis Brosowski brings all the tools of the trade to the trade show. He has a broad range and can hit all the notes and then some, though he’s best when straddling the line between Geoff Tate’s theatrical crooning and John Cyriis’ over-the-top adventurism. Does he go too far at times? Of course he does, and Halford got carried away on Painkiller. It’s the nature (number) of the metal beast. Ample support for the manic vocal insanity is provided by guitarists Harms Wendler and Oliver von Daak who throw wide the gates to allow all manner of 80s influences to infect their playing. A stately Queensrÿche riff descends into a Priest-y freewheel burner, and that in turn transitions to something Keel or Raven would’ve thrown down to rock the party. It works more often than not and talent is never in short supply.

Iron Fate sell cheap ass 80s metal nostalgia out of a sketchy van parked down by the river, and one of their best customers is yours Steely. This is not new nor original, but it’s well-written, well-executed and surprisingly sticky stuff. It would make an admirable companion piece to the new Mega Colossus, and with both those hefty platters under your Christmas tree, you might end up one-third as trve as me, best case scenario. If you need one last booster shot of throwback fun in 2021, the Fates have smiled upon you.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre
Releases Worldwide: December 17th, 2021

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